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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) ran through Cardinals defenders on his way to score a touchdown in the first quarter.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Rand: Vikings, Gophers can live for present

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND
  • Star Tribune
  • October 22, 2012 - 7:00 AM

In the absence of recent championships to celebrate among the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and Gophers, fans of those teams often have turned to hope instead.

When things are going poorly, nothing sounds better than a hypothetical point down the road when things could be better.

Sometimes, though, this sentiment causes us to lose sight of this: Sometimes you can't wait for the future. Sometimes you have to play for the present because you never know what's going to happen.

Two examples -- one with which we now have the benefit of hindsight and another that is a recent development which we believe will prove to be the correct decision -- are playing themselves out on the football field this season with the Vikings and the Gophers.

These are perhaps the two most desperate and longest-suffering fan bases in Minnesota. The Vikings never have won the Super Bowl; they haven't even reached the big game for 35 years, despite some agonizingly close calls. The Gophers haven't been consistently relevant in two generations.

The theory many Vikings fans held this offseason was this: The team is in rebuilding mode and won't have a sniff at the playoffs in 2012. As such, why risk putting Adrian Peterson back on the field so soon after his major knee injury? Let him ease his way back in as the team works on shoring up other areas, gets another high draft pick and plays for 2013 and beyond.

As we are being reminded, however, the NFL is the hardest of the major pro sports leagues to predict. Games turn on a few bounces and a few key plays every game. And seasons turn on enough of these games, enough so that with improvements and luck, a team can "arrive" sooner than predicted.

Peterson entered Sunday seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (499) and sixth in rushing attempts per game (18.8). The effort against the Cardinals was his best game of the year -- without his 23 carries, 153 yards and a TD run, the Vikings do not win that game. They are a team with issues; they are also a team that is 5-2 -- which means they are a playoff threat, and by definition in the hunt. The future arrived early, and Peterson is a major reason why.

The opinion of some Gophers football fans, meanwhile, is that Minnesota should have preserved Philip Nelson's redshirt and made him the quarterback starting in 2013.

This is nonsense. A combination of ineffectiveness and injuries made a muddled mess of the team's QB situation. Nelson gives them the best chance to win right now, and he will also gain invaluable experience for the future by playing six Big Ten games. He wasn't perfect Saturday, but the game hardly looked too big for him.

Again, sometimes you have to stop worrying about what will happen in the future and start preparing for what is happening in the present.

MICHAEL RAND

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